- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes is balking at a North Dakota lawmaker’s suggestion that the tribe help pay for repairs at a historic Native American site as a way to improve state-tribal relations following the Dakota Access pipeline protests.

The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2oaqkaE ) reports that Chairman Mark Fox is rejecting the idea from Republican Rep. Jim Schmidt to pay part of the $3.5 million to restore the Double Ditch Historical Site, where thousands of American Indians once gathered to trade along the Missouri River. Erosion has caused some graves at the site to be exposed.

Fox said protests against the four-state oil pipeline aren’t related to North Dakota’s responsibility to protect human graves and historic sites on state-owned land.

“I take offense to any state legislator suggesting we pay for the state’s failure to properly conduct responsible government-to-government relations with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation,” Fox said.

Amy Mossett, a Three Affiliated Tribes member working with the North Dakota Historical Society on the bank stabilization project, said while she was pleased Schmidt was considering repairing relations, she thought connecting Double Ditch to the protest was a mistake.

“Knowing that the state representatives from District 31 are having a discussion about reconciliation with Standing Rock is a good thing - but it’s an equally important matter - separate from Double Ditch,” Mossett said.

Legislators have been discussing how to fund repairs needed to stop erosion at the archaeological site. The House took away backing for a $1.25 million loan authorized during the last legislative session to complete the project. The Senate has passed a plan to transfer $1 million from the state’s Parks and Recreation budget to the North Dakota Historical Society for the fixes and to allow the loan.

Schmidt has also suggested the historical society might also look for funding in a grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

“It fits that program perfectly,” said Schmidt, adding that the Double Ditch repairs need to get done.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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